“I will not be criticizing President (Barack) Obama,” Bush told a Veterans Day tribute audience. “As a matter of fact, we wish him well. We’re all Americans, and we want to succeed.”
He said he didn’t miss Washington, “all the politics, all the name calling ... the spitballs.”
But he told some 1,500 people, many of them veterans, at the National Museum of the U.S. Air Force in southwest Ohio that he does miss serving as commander in chief.
With interviews and speeches, Bush has been vigorously promoting his newly released memoir “Decision Points. He focused his speech Thursday on parts of the book dealing with wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and the support and inspiration he drew from wounded warriors, families of those killed during his presidency, and the military.
“America is a magnificent country that produces patriots,” he said.
He offered thanks to those who have served in the military, “on behalf of a grateful nation,” and smiled as he insisted: “I’ve really come to praise the veterans, not to sell my book. But if I sell a couple of copies, that’s OK, too.”
Charlie Crall, a mailman from nearby Medway, Ohio, said he mainly just wanted to see Bush and hadn’t planned to buy the book. But he said he has decided to buy it after hearing excerpts and seeing some of Bush’s interviews.
“From what I’m hearing, he speaks candidly,” said Crall, 55. “I think it will be good reading.”
Bush was back in a state that was crucial to his presidency. He twice carried Ohio, which clinched his re-election in 2004.
Miami University political scientist Ryan Barilleaux says the book and the Republican rout in Nov. 2 elections should help Bush burnish his image two years after leaving office with low approval ratings.
“I think President Bush is setting out to do as (Jimmy) Carter and (Richard) Nixon and other former presidents have done; trying to redeem themselves a little bit,” said Barilleaux, whose books on the presidency include one on the term of Bush’s father George H.W. Bush.
“He can explain, here’s the things I did and here’s why I did them,” he said, adding that Bush would want people to conclude that “even if we disagree with the things he did, we believe that he had the country’s best interests at heart.”
Bush also spoke at the museum as president in 2008, contending in his speech that the war in Iraq had made substantive progress.